BOOKREVIEW LONGTHROAT MEMOIRS – Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds

Author: Yemisi Aribisala

Genre: Non Fiction (Collection of Essays/Memoirs)

Publisher and Year of Publication: Casava republic, 2016

Price: £12.99 or #5500

Number of Pages: 357

I think I can say boldly that nothing like Aribisala’s book has been written before. It is a delicious collection of essays that serves you witty stories of food, food culture and even recipes. But no, it is not a cook book. It is a book that evokes nostalgic memories, some dreaded, some sweet, some just plane feel good memories, like the sound of your mother’s metal cooking spoon, hitting the edge of the cooking pot filled with delicious jollof rice which is a way to let the rice stuck on the spoon back into the pot, but which truly signified that food was ready.

It is a body of work that’s ultimately a Nigerian experience. Not that non Nigerians can’t read it and enjoy it, but how do you explain the demonic spirit attached to eating okra or snails to a non Nigerian, or the sacredness of stew (omi obe) in a pot that has only one handle and is always covered half way sitting majestically on a cooker or stove  in a Yoruba household.

Aribisala is a remarkable essayist whose writing is so fascinating. Throughout the book I was floored by her mind, her imagination, how she is able to write pages and pages inspired by such mundane things the first plate of afang she tasted or the smell of dawadawa. It sometimes feels like endless talking, but that is the superbness of this book, that long-rant-ish feel from your sweet grandmother that you hate but love.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the essay titled The Institution of Stew, where she takes us back to such chores given to children, like going to grind the pepper and tomatoes. The authoritative look and voice a child needed to have when doing such chores, demanding but being polite when telling the elero to rinse his grinding mill and wooden stick well before putting your peppers, telling he or she to pass the tomatoes through the mill for the third time, no matter how many people were waiting, so that it is smooth enough for your mother otherwise she would say ko kuno.

Another would be of the Nigerian wife who has to fit all manner of ingredients; dried ugwu leaves, dried fish, dried pepper etc into her suitcase and so must her husband because any man who is too good to carry ugwu  leaves in his luggage must not be too good to eat efo riro made with kale or chicken bought from Peckham that tastes nothing like Nigerian chicken. And walking through the airport, you will never know the atrocities in his luggage because his wrist watch will be rolex and his loafers will be Ferragamo.

These are the types of heart warming essays you’ll find in Longthroat memoirs. From the familiar to the funny to the down right ridiculous. She litters the book with some of her tried and tested recipes too, some passed down from grandparents because it would be a taboo to cook it any other way and others modified because one has to adapt to the kind of tight wall to wall terraced middle class housing available in Lagos such that you are not allowed to cook meals with aroma that runs round the entire compound. Please keep your aroma in your flat.

Familiar essays in almost exact same sequence with your family despite being born years apart.

The beauty of Nigerianess is present in this book and I love it. this is why it gets a 4/5.

It doesn’t get a 5 from me because I do not like the book cover at all. You would walk past it in a bookstore and not be interested because it is so unstimulating, unimaginative and bland for all the goodness that’s in the book.

Never judge a book by its cover I know, but ahh, I’m judging this one.




One Comment Add yours

  1. Walt Shakes says:

    If I could read this review and have my mouth water at some of the lines here, I fear for my longthroat when I start reading the book.
    Love, love, love this!

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